Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Steps towards a new university ministry

This is a letter we sent out to our congregation in September of this year. I'm re-posting it here for two reasons, first as an example of a congregational letter for review and comment, and second as a resource for members of our congregation interested in reading it on-line:
September 13th, 2011

Dear <>,
In April of 2011, our church council, by a vote of 10-1, passed the following resolution, "Be it resolved that the GSLC church council initiate and pursue the necessary steps to call and fund an ELCA mission developer, with a focus on developing a university ministry as a satellite campus of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church beginning fall of 2011, and be it further resolved that our church immediately commission a university ministry team to begin outreach and ministry at the University of Arkansas."
Since that time, I've been keeping this message in front of us. Many of our leadership have also caught this vision. At the same time, our synod staff has been encouraging us as a congregation in our development of new ministries. I can't think of a month that has gone by where I haven't thought to myself, "Wow, God, you really have a plan for us, don't you!?" Assets and opportunities keep presenting themselves.
At our annual meeting in the spring, Curt Rom offered a summary of some initial conversations we were having around development of a university ministry. We initiated some planning conversations with the church council and staff. Additionally, we have been having informal conversations all over the place about Good Shepherd's call to develop a ministry focused on the university campus community. Many of you routinely ask me, "How are things going with the development of our ministry at the university?"
Since passing this resolution, we have taken significant steps in this direction. First, we applied for a grant from the ELCA to fund a mission developer beginning in the summer of 2012. The ELCA has accepted our grant proposal, which means we can anticipate approximately $30,000 in funding from the ELCA in 2012 to fund the position. We also anticipate receiving additional funding from the synod (approximately $15,000), and we have already received a promise of $1000 in seed money from the A-OK Synod Campus Ministry team. Our church would need to fund the remainder of the position, but this is about $46,000 in grants towards funding such a position.
What is a mission developer? In our context, we imagine calling a Pastor of New Communities. This person would be devoted full-time to the work of developing a new ministry with and in the university context. Such work would certainly also include connecting that satellite ministry to GSLC as the "nest" church. For a more detailed description of the position, the vision, etc., visit http://goodshepherdnwa.org/?p=2742 and read the document titled, "Campus Ministry Grant."

So what is next? If we are going to move forward with calling this pastor, the next step is for the church council to form a call committee, something we will discuss and vote on at our September meeting. The call committee would complete the paperwork to call a pastor similar to the process engaged in to call myself. Once the call committee is formed, it would work to gather input from the congregation, make use of the grant proposal as a guiding text, and communicate regularly with the congregation throughout the process.

At our November congregational meeting, the congregation would need to approve, as a part of the overall church budget, additional funding for this position, perhaps in the amount of $20,000. Once the call committee is formed, and the budget is approved, then we would be ready in the spring of 2012 to move forward with the interviewing of candidates, leading to, finally, a vote of the entire congregation on whether to call a specific candidate for the position of Pastor of New Communities. [update: Additional gifts and resources have come in that have modified what we think these funding streams will need to look like, so this paragraph reflects thinking at the time rather than further fall developments]

In the meantime, a small group of lay people from our congregation are working together to plan and lead university ministries throughout the year. I myself have already been taking the lead on this.  However, I already know that to do ministry in the university context, and to do it well, we need a full-time person. I believe with my whole heart that God is calling us to take this bold step to call a second pastor who can work full time in developing a strong and vital university ministry.
Calling such a pastor will have the added benefit of freeing myself up to continue my primary call as pastor and head of staff for GSLC. Right now, in order to develop even small new initiatives at the university, I need to split time more than is sustainable. I look forward to the possibility of working with an associate pastor who can devote themselves fully to a ministry I believe truly deserves it.
The need is great. Young single adults and multi-ethnic young adults and families make up a very large percentage of the population of Fayetteville, and we are not currently reaching them like we can and should. The University of Arkansas is growing every year in size and prestige as a university in this country. We will miss out on an amazing opportunity if we don't develop a strong and innovative university ministry--and we are the only ELCA congregation in this city, so the necessity and opportunity fall to us. Our full communion partners, such as the chaplains at the Presbyterian and Episcopalian centers, also relish the idea of a full-time full communion partner working with the university context. If we develop this, it is not only outreaching but also winningly ecumenical in scope.
I believe we can do this. I believe we can fund it. I believe we can find the right person. I believe we have the collective will to support it with prayer and volunteer time, and I believe I have the right gifts to work with such a person to help them in their own development and lead a staff that includes this person. I believe also that calling such a person will strengthen our congregation as well. I believe God is calling us to step out in faith.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and thank you especially to everyone who reads the grant proposal on-line (print copies are also available in the church office if you prefer). I hope that when you read the grant proposal, you "catch" the vision. 
GSLC is such an incredible, relationally rich, and caring place. I want to share some of our DNA and develop a new ministry, and I think the right place to start is in the university context. Will you prayerfully consider this vision with me, that together we can work to "connect people to God through the gospel of Christ"? 
In Christ,
Pastor Clint Schnekloth

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